Embroidered Gift Tags

The thing with being crafty is that you are always looking for new things to try.  You find yourself with a bunch of chipboard from various projects and you found a couple of bin full of embroidery thread you stashed away years ago and you wonder “What the heck am I going to do with all this?”  These days, you can just head to the Internet and find someone, somewhere, who has done something cool with those materials.*  Which led me to the embroidered card tutorial over at Design Sponge.  After I had made a couple, I found myself with lots of leftover chipboard.  Too small for cards, but too large to just chuck.  With the holiday season coming up, I decided to try my hand at making embroidered gift tags.

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Honey-Citrus Granola

We get a lot of our groceries from Costco.  It saves money, but it means that we end up with things like 10 lb bags of rolled oats.  And there is only so much oatmeal you can eat.  After a round of oatmeal Craisin cookies or banana oatmeal bread, you still have five pounds of rolled oats staring at you.  Let me tell you, the Quaker Oats guy can give a mean stink-eye after a while.

And so I’ve been making granola on a semi-regular basis*.  The other night I pulled out my current favorite recipe from Mother Nature Network.  Unfortunately, I was short several ingredients: no nuts, limited cinnamon, and limited vanilla extract.  I excavated a bottle of orange extract from the back of the cupboard and found lemons and limes in the fridge from a recent grocery trip.  Add in the rather large jar of ground nutmeg and and idea formed: Citrus Granola.  That sounded breakfast-y!  Time for an experiment.  Below is the recipe I used.  The result was a granola with a very distinct citrus-flavor.  I have enough orange extract left that I will most likely make it again.

If you decide to make it, let me know how it turned out for you.

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Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial

If you’ve been saving your toilet paper rolls for seed starter pots and find yourself with still more rolls than you have use for, make a pretty holiday garland.  Little crafters can help with some of the construction, so they can feel part of the holiday decorations.  The idea of this garland was inspired by toilet paper roll flowers pictures here.  Coloring them green and red give them a festive feel. Continue reading Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial

Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

The thing about yard clean up, the kind that involves cutting branches and hauling stones and pulling down fences, is that you end up with a lot of stuff. Most of it gets sorted into the compost heap, or rubbish bin, or stacked up for use later on. Some of it you look at and think, “I bet I could do something with that.” You might not know what, exactly, you could do. But you decide to set it aside just in case. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds

The idea started off simply enough: to turn the backyard into a garden.  The indecision, however, is in the details.  While we could, theoretically, pull up all the lawn and plant right into the ground, we have two dogs who have no regard for boundaries.  Enya, a German short-haired pointer, will trample over plants, push over fences and chicken wire, and steal cucumbers right off the vine.  We also have our share of rabbits who trek through the yard, despite the wooden fence and the presence of the dogs.  I’ve lost more pea shoots than I can count to bunny thieves.  Taking all of those factors into account, we decided raised beds throughout the backyard would be our best bet. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds

Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

In my quest to create a backyard garden (as opposed to a garden in my backyard) some things had to be tidied up.  November was going to be that month.  We knew we had to work quickly as possible since winter seemed on planning an early arrival.

Nightshade Covered Woodpile
Nightshade had taken over the wood pile. Pretty, but smelly, and got in the way of getting to the wood.

The big projects for the month involved trimming the branches from trees, the woodpile and the compost heap.  Trimming the branches would give us all sorts of wood for the fire pit next year.  Alas, the wood pile was still filled with branches and wood from previous years. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

Gardening as a Radical Act

My grandparents’ house stood on an acre of land, half of which was given over to gardening.  Most of it was taken up by vegetables: peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, even a few pumpkin plants for the grandkids come Halloween.  There was a small strip that I always thought of as The Orchard: an elderberry tree, pear, apple and cherry trees, as well as a few grape vines.  The perimeter of the area was ringed by berry bushes: gooseberry, currant, Chinese cherries.  Having raised five kids on little money, my grandparents, my grandmother in particular, had the cultivation and production of foodstuffs down to an art.

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Doing the Math

I’ve been trying for a while to write this all out.  I’ve gone through several drafts.  The obstacle I keep running into is not knowing how to start.

So let’s start here: At one point I went through lengthy arbitration with The Bank That Shall Not Be Named.  I had to show P/L sheets, bank balances, invoices, etc. to prove my low-income status.  Looking over my year’s expenses and sales showed a net income in the low three figures.  The man who represented the bank was less than kind in his response.  “That’s all you make from sewing?  Why even bother?”*

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I Had to Believe

While I was learning to work with clay, I made a lot of pots and had to believe that even if they were less than perfect the making of them was worthwhile and important.  To continue, I needed to find faith that the expression of my inner forms would become easier and that it had intrinsic value to me as a process of growth.  I had to believe that my vision and its pursuit were valuable to me and to those around me even though the world didn’t necessarily need more mediocre pottery.

—Rheya Polo, “Spinning from the Center—Creation & Transformation”